About Cornell University

Founded in 1865, Cornell University is a private, Ivy League university and the land-grant university for New York state. Since the opening of its first building, Morrill Hall, in 1868, Cornell has only continued to evolve and expand as an institution, in its pursuit to becoming an exemplary comprehensive research university for the 21st century. Often described as the first truly American university, Cornell has taken to heart the revolutionary spirit of its founders, along with their egalitarian and practical vision of higher education, as a way to embrace the responsibility bestowed upon its world-renowned faculty, passionate students, and dedicated staff to make contributions in all fields of knowledge in a manner that prioritizes public engagement to help improve the quality of life in the state, the nation, and the world. With nine undergraduate colleges, a graduate school and four professional schools in Ithaca, a medical college, and a professional school in New York City, and one in Doha, Qatar, over 25,000 students and more than 10,000 faculty and staff call Cornell home.

Cornell’s main campus, located in Ithaca, NY, spans more than 2000 acres with over 600 buildings and sits nestled in the heart of New York’s quaint and picturesque Finger Lakes region. Named one of the top 100 places to live, a top 10 recreation city, a best green place to live, and one of America’s “foodiest” towns, Ithaca, NY provides all of the experiences of a traditional college campus, with a wide variety of opportunities and unique offerings. As the federal land-grant institution for New York state, Cornell has been part of the fabric of Ithaca since its founding in 1865, with a mission to discover, preserve and disseminate knowledge, to educate the next generation of global citizens, and to promote a culture of broad inquiry throughout and beyond the Cornell community,

About Cornell Athletics & Physical Education

The “Big Red” is synonymous with the Cornell name and steeped in tradition and success. Athletics & Physical Education sponsors 37 NCAA varsity sports, at the Division I level – 18 for men and 19 for women – along with offering one of the largest and most diverse Physical Education programs in the Ivy League with over 100 offerings in support of what is a long-standing academic requirement for all undergraduates to complete two physical education courses. The department’s intramural sports, outdoor education, and recreations programs are equally remarkable, steering the physical health and well-being of the campus. The footprint of athletic and recreational facilities totals more than 1.2M square feet, with recent renovations in several team-specific facilities, a new student fitness center, and a new baseball stadium currently under construction. The department is supported by a large portion of Cornell’s extremely loyal alumni base, who beyond cheering for the Big Red, provide consistent philanthropic support to help enhance the student experience.

As an integral unit within the Division of Student and Campus Life, Athletics & Physical Education is fundamental to the overall student experience on the Ithaca campus. Together, the departments within the division foster a community on campus that inspires transformation in Cornell students on their journey of individual, academic and personal development through programs and services including public service, health, wellness, social justice, residential living, food services, sports, recreation, career services, and student activities and organizations including sorority and fraternity life. Among the division’s top priorities in the short term is to develop a comprehensive strategic plan to build on our athletic program’s success and incredible history. Within the context of a learning community, the University values the importance of intercollegiate athletics as well as physical education, outdoor education, wellness and intramural opportunities for its students, faculty and staff. In large measure, this philosophy contributes to the conscious decision to have intercollegiate athletics program, as well as physical education, outdoor education, wellness, and intramural programs combined organizationally.

Position Overview

The Meakem*Smith Director of Athletics and Physical Education reports to the Vice President for Student and Campus Life and is responsible for the strategic vision and programmatic oversight of intercollegiate sports, physical education programs, outdoor education, intramural programs, recreation and associated facilities and assets. The Director appreciates the significance of the student-athlete’s academic experience and simultaneously is responsible for creating an environment in which the coaches will provide competitive opportunities for student-athletes at the intercollegiate level. It is expected that intercollegiate athletic teams will pursue excellence and be competitive in the Ivy League and for some sports, at a national level.  The Director plays a significant role in support of the physical health and wellness offerings to students, faculty and staff. As an ambassador for the institution, the Director embraces the relationships with alumni and friends to continue an outstanding legacy in Cornell Athletics and sustainably for the future.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Provide the strategic vision, management direction, financial stewardship oversight and endowment, capital and operating fundraising plans.
  • Provide leadership and direction to Cornell for a full range of physical education, outdoor education, intramural and general recreation opportunities by setting goals, stimulating program development, allocating resources, assessing student and other institutional needs, developing appropriate policies, fostering open communication with and among campus constituencies, promoting relevant evaluation methodologies, and participating in decision-making processes.
  • Oversee intercollegiate athletics coaching staff within the framework of the University’s emphasis on academic excellence, the Ivy League philosophy and in compliance with NCAA and Ivy League rules, regulations and ethics for intercollegiate competition.
  • Create and maintain effective recruitment and retention strategies for coaching staff and student-athletes.
  • Anticipate and adapt programs to meet the needs of an ever-changing student body. Model a deep focus and commitment to mental health and well-being, inclusion and belonging, gender equity, and support for a student-athlete population that is increasingly diverse.
  • Serve as a highly visible leader on campus. Connect regularly with university leadership, faculty and administrators, students, parents, alumni and work with the Directors of Admissions and Financial Aid, and the undergraduate colleges.
  • Lead an effective senior-level management team.
  • Delegate appropriate senior athletics' staff to work with the other directors in the Division of Student and Campus Life to create integrated strategies for recreation of students within the broad context of the living and learning environment.
  • Oversee the effective management of the fiscal and business operations of the department to provide funding for all programs and activities, while maintaining appropriate fiduciary controls.
  • Build and sustain the level of outside financial support for and revenue-generating capacity of the intercollegiate athletics and other programs.
  • Maintain effective communications with the campus community, the broader community at large, and alumni with regard to intercollegiate athletics and other programs as appropriate.


  • Bachelor’s degree required; Advanced degree and experience with an academic environment is preferred.
  • Appropriate athletic background together with an understanding of intercollegiate athletics at Division I institutions with demanding academic standards.
  • The highest level of personal and professional ethics, honesty, integrity, including the commitment to abide by NCAA and Ivy League rules and regulations.
  • Proven or demonstrated commitment to diversity and gender equity.
  • Proven ability to raise funds and support.
  • Able to delegate effectively and to hold accountable those to whom responsibility is delegated; ability to serve as both a leader and as a team member.
  • Proven ability to provide a strategic vision and demonstrated success in managing strategy to action.
  • The ability to recruit, retain and develop talented coaches and other Athletics Department staff, and cultivate an environment of professional development and continuous improvement for outstanding staff, and senior level staff.
  • Proven success in managing a diverse and complex organization with competing priorities, and ability to balance competing interests.
  • Demonstrated ability and experience as an effective physical plant and fiscal manager.
  • The ability to exercise judgment, decision making and problem-solving skills.
  • Effective written and oral communication skills. Must be an articulate advocate for the department with internal and external constituents.
  • Ability to develop and maintain good interpersonal relationships with all constituent groups including students, alumni, staff, faculty and others.
  • Ability to deal with ambiguity and resolve conflict with diverse constituents.
  • A collaborative style and positively focused high energy. 

Application Process

Cornell University invites nominations and applications or expressions of interest to be submitted to the search firm assisting the University. Applications must include a cover letter, resume or curriculum vitae, and list of references. For full consideration, application materials should be submitted to Parker Executive Search’s website by October 17, 2022. Confidential review of materials will begin immediately and continue until the appointment is made.

For additional information, please contact:

Daniel Parker, Vice President and Managing Director

DeLaina Jordan, Senior Associate

Taylor Middleton, Associate

danielparker@parkersearch.com | djordan@parkersearch.com | tmiddleton@parkersearch.com

Parker Executive Search

770-804-1996 ext. 119 | 770-804-1996 ext. 124

Diversity and Inclusion are a part of Cornell University’s heritage. We area recognized employer and educator valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities. We also recognize a lawful preference in employment practices for Native Americans living on or near Indian Reservations.

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